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HR Leaders Honored at Dinner

Randy MacDonald, IBM's HR leader, was praised for his vision, creativity and passion as he accepted his award as the 2008 HR Executive of the Year at a dinner on Oct. 16. Also honored were the 2008 HR Honor Roll winners: Bridget Atkinson, Barbara Baker, Rich Floersch, Bruce Pfau and Eva Sage-Gavin.

Friday, October 17, 2008
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IBM HR leader Randy MacDonald was feted by his colleagues and more than 100 human resource leaders as he accepted his award as the 2008 HR Executive of the Year from Human Resource Executive® magazine at a reception and dinner at the University Club of Chicago on Oct. 16.

Photos from the awards dinner can be seen here.

"For your vision, your creativity and your passion, Randy, it's a pleasure to present you with the 2008 HR Executive of the Year award," said HRE editor and co-publisher David Shadovitz, after he and co-publisher Rebecca McKenna detailed some of the HR strategies and innovations MacDonald has put into place.

MacDonald first lauded the five HR Honor Roll winners who were also honored at the event -- Bridget Atkinson of GTSI Corp., Barbara Baker of Umpqua Holdings Corp., Rich Floersch of McDonald's Corp., Bruce N. Pfau of KPMG LLP and Eva Sage-Gavin of Gap Inc. -- saying they "truly are the best of our profession."

"When I was a young man," MacDonald said, "I made an assumption, a leap of faith if you will, [to pursue] a career in HR." That was "a wonderful decision," he said, and noted that it was "truly humbling" for his career to be "culminating ... tonight in some ways."

He spoke of his father, a blue-collar union official, as a role model who was "always able to get things done" and his mother, whose strong point of view, decisiveness and candidness surely presaged some of his own traits.

He pointed at some of the name changes the HR function has gone through over the years and said that such an identity crisis may have held the profession back.

"We must be the same as a business leader who ultimately focuses on human resources, but first we are a business leader," he said.

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He noted, however, that "at the end of the day, I have learned that our profession has always been about people no matter what we call the profession."

And it is the people, MacDonald said, who are "the ultimate differentiators" for an organization, so HR must proactively look for solutions and make sure workers "understand the business and the strategy."

In such stressful times, HR has never been more important, he said.

The value and potential of the HR profession was also in the comments of some of the HR Honor Roll winners as they accepted their awards.

Atkinson said that "the success of the profession is built not by competition but by collaboration," while Baker noted that HR was strengthened by CEOs and other executives "who believe in you, who believe that HR executives can bring strategic ideas to the table."

"Anytime you get recognized like this," Floersch said, "it means taking a look at the people who helped you get to where you are," as he recited the words of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, who once advised: "Don't worry about yourself. Take good care of those who work for you and you will float to greatness on their achievements."

Pfau praised the management committee and partners at KPMG who welcomed him into the firm in 2004 and who "really locked arms in a difficult time."

"I think our challenge ... is to draw on our reservoir of good will and keep that reservoir of good will going," he said, while Sage-Gavin said she believes "this is our time -- our time to show what we've got, to show what we are made of."

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